UK Voluntary Register For
Public Health Specialists


1. Introduction

One of the key groups for whom the Voluntary Register has been set up are those working in health promotion in a strategic and senior professional capacity. We want to develop the best possible communication between the Register and the health promotion profession.

SHEPS and the UK Voluntary Register have jointly produced this briefing note for Public Health Specialists specifically health promotion professionals. It covers:

We want the health promotion profession to be involved in developing the Voluntary Register. It is an independent organisation, developing its own identity, policies, structures, systems and processes.

Some health promotion professionals, who come from many backgrounds, including education and community development, may not feel that public health is their ideal professional grouping. The UK Voluntary Register does however offer senior health promotion professionals a 'home' in terms of recognition.

NHS policy and structural changes have led to the health promotion workforce feeling fragmented in some places. Some health promotion professionals are concerned for the identity and resourcing of their profession and their future career pathways.

The UK Voluntary Register deals with regulation for public protection and cannot directly resolve these issues. But because registration is concerned with the description, assessment and development of competencies, it can play a valuable role in the further development of the profession.

2. The purpose of the UK Voluntary Register for Public Health Specialists

The UK Voluntary Register is the product of many years of working towards a system of recognition for Public Health Specialists who come from all professional backgrounds. Its primary function is to protect the public by maintaining the professional standards of practice of Public Health Specialists. It will, for the first time, provide those public health professionals, who have not in the past found an appropriate regulatory organisation, with their own body with which to register.

Portfolio Assessment Framework: For most specialists, entry to the Voluntary Register will initially be through a process of assessment. Those who wish to be considered for registration will be asked to submit a portfolio of their work. The portfolio will be used to ensure that each person considered for registration is able to demonstrate competence in each of ten key areas of public health practice.

Assessment teams: Portfolios will be submitted for consideration by assessment teams consisting of three assessors: an independent chair, a public health professional from a background other than medicine, and a public health professional from a medical background. Everything possible will be done to ensure the integrity of the assessment process and the fair and impartial consideration of applications.

Once registered, each specialist will be expected to keep up to date with current public health practice. A form of revalidation will be implemented to ensure that the public remain protected from any poor practice by those operating in the field of specialist public health. The appropriate disciplinary procedures will also be introduced to protect standards and maintain ethical practice.

3. Portfolio Assessment Framework

There has been some concern that health promotion competencies are not adequately reflected in the ten key areas of public health practice included in the Portfolio Assessment Framework.

However health promotion professionals were consulted in 2002 during the development of Framework. Whilst not all their concerns may have been reflected in the final version, some changes were made in response to their views. The Register's systems and processes will be reviewed after a year, providing a further opportunity to develop the framework if the Board considers it appropriate.

There is no hierarchy amongst the ten competency areas. They will all be treated equally in the assessment process.

4. The governance of the Register

Joint Board: The Register is an independent organisation, governed by a Joint Board which is responsible for all its policies and procedures. The Joint Board is multidisciplinary. It includes two nominees from each of the Multidisciplinary Public Health Forum, the Royal Institute of Public Health and the Faculty of Public Health, and nominees from six different regulatory organisations, together with observers from the four UK Health Departments. It is also proposed to co-opt (for England) a Primary Care Trust Director of Public Health from a background other than medicine onto the Board, to ensure direct representation of their interests.

The Chair of the Joint Board, Professor Jim McEwen, is keen to meet with health promotion professionals and maintain a dialogue.

Advisory Group: The Register Joint Board will be required to take advice from an Advisory Group, to ensure that a wide range of interests have a direct role in shaping its policies. Some important processes, such as revalidation, have yet to be developed. SHEPS will be invited to join the Advisory Group, which will have its first meeting in the next two or three months.

Review: All of the Register's structures, systems and processes will be reviewed after a year. The Advisory Group will play an important role in the review. It is expected that changes will occur and we want health promotion professionals to be involved.

5. The assessment process

Independence: The Register has developed its own independent assessment process. It is striving to set the highest standards of integrity to ensure that all applicants are treated fairly and impartially.

Balanced assessment teams: Each assessment team will have three members: an independent chair, a public health professional from a background other than medicine; and a public health professional from a medical background.

Quality assurance: to ensure robust decision-making, two assessment teams will review each application independently. Applicants will be given two opportunities to be assessed over 18 months. The assessment teams will meet together regularly to ensure consistent decision-making. All assessors must attend 1.5 days training and consolidation training will also be provided.

6. Next phase: Defined groups of specialists

The Register will initially open to 'generalist specialists', working at Board or strategic level, who are able to demonstrate competence in all ten key areas of public health practice. It is hoped that as many health promotion professionals as possible will take advantage of generalist specialist registration, which can offer opportunities for personal development.

It is also planned to open the register to defined groups of specialists with particular areas of expertise, who work at a level of seniority and strategic responsibility that can be distinguished from that of senior practitioners. The development of the methodology for achieving this is being managed as a project for the next six months. The health promotion community will be involved as a partner in the project. The issues include:

The development work for defined groups of specialists raises difficult and complex questions that will be worked through in partnership with the groups themselves.

June 2003

Public Health Register Home